Thursday, May 28, 2015

Is Rand Paul correct about the "right" to healthcare?

I came across an image online of Rand Paul with a quote about healthcare. An article about the image as well as Rand Paul's full quotation can be found here. I will not concern myself with what the article says as it merely confirms the veracity of the statement. I have seen a video with the full statement as well as the retort of Bernie Sanders.

As the article points out, and what is missing from the video, is that Paul made this statement with regards to access to emergency care. However, some people actually believe that healthcare is a right. Some justify this conclusion based on the constitutional guarantee of right to life and healthcare is needed to ensure we can continue to live.

This is a misunderstanding of what right to life means. No where in the constitution is anyone granted a right to live only that they shall not be denied the right to life without due process. The Declaration of Independence does assert that all Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness are inalienable rights. The constitution clarifies what this means by saying you shall not be deprived of life, liberty or property without due process.

Those who advocate for a right to healthcare on the claim that the right to life guarantees it must then accept that you have no right to liberty. This is what Rand Paul's claim amounts to.

Everyone cannot have access to unlimited healthcare. Healthcare resources are finite. There are only 3 ways to ensure that people do get access to healthcare.

1. Through peaceful, voluntary means. This is the only means compatible with a civil and just society. Healthcare is given based on a voluntary exchange with the provider of the healthcare service with payment by the consumer or voluntarily by a third party or as a purely voluntary act of the provider for those who are not able to afford it.

2. The second option is through stealing from a third party in order to pay the healthcare provider. This is the means that Bernie Sanders advocates and is the primary means that healthcare is provided in much of the uncivilized first world that practices socialized medicine.

3. The third option if no one is willing to provide the service voluntarily and no one is willing to accept stolen money in exchange for there services, the only option is to force the provider to provide the healthcare service. This is clearly a last resort but anyone who believes that you have a right to healthcare must admit that slavery is acceptable as a means to provide said healthcare.

It is this final option Rand was talking about. He is right. Ultimately the right to healthcare in the positive sense must mean that slavery will be used as a last resort.

Friday, May 15, 2015

Is "Does God exist?" an important question?

I hear believers, usually those about to argue for God's existence, claim that the question "Does God exist?" is an important question. Is it? I do not think so.

There are two possibilities that the realities of the world we live in leave use. Either God does not care about our well being or God does not exist. The massive suffering in the world leaves only these options.

Some might say that God does care but is unable to do anything. This is the thesis of Harold Kushner's book, When Bad Things Happen to Good People. But if there is a being somewhere who is impotent to act to stop even a little suffering in this world, how can this same being have created the universe. The power to create something from nothing could easily be used to feed starving masses.

Some people claim that Atheists are simply mad at God. And surely if such a creature existed we would have much to be mad about. I do not need to even point out the little suffering in my life, there is so much suffering in this world. If God exists, he is making no effort to reduce suffering. If he cared about our welling being, he would reduce suffering. Therefore, if God exists, he does not care about our well being.

Some believers, desperate to cling to a belief in a good God, claim that God has a greater plan. But God is supposed to be all knowing. Is God not smart enough to achieve his plan without so much suffering? If God does not know how to achieve his plan without human suffering or does not have the power to so achieve his plan, clearly he is not a god.

So we are left with two options, either God does not exist or he does not care about us. If God does exist, then he is irrelevant to us as he does not care. If he does not exist, God matters even less. 

Sunday, May 10, 2015

Minimum Wage and Employee Turnover.

Let me start with this, I oppose minimum wage on purely moral grounds. Minimum wage laws threaten violent action against people entering into peaceful, voluntary mutually beneficial contracts who terms the supports of minimum wage laws do not support. For the same reasons I oppose the drug war, laws against prostitution or other types of consensual sex between adults, the FDA and other laws and regulations that create victimless crimes.

However, some people have started looking at studies on the effects of minimum wage to try to justify the aggression they support. One of the supposed economic benefits that minimum wage brings in reduced employee turnover.

Economic benefits are irrelevant to me. If you claimed that to avoid economic collapse we needed to make a human sacrifice to Mammon, I would tell you to start stockpiling supplies.

The claim has some superficial validity, though. And desperate to justify the violation of rights, some on the left will point to studies that show that an increased minimum wage can reduce employee turnover and thereby reduce the costs of employee training.

In some cases, a business may not be paying a high enough wage and would save money in employee training costs by raising the wage. In these particular cases, a higher wage is more than offset by the lower training costs.

There are two clear problems with this claim. The first is that it is not clear that all or even most companies will save money by raising wages and lowering training costs. In fact, some companies may actually be better off lowering wages below the current minimum wage, which leads to the second problem, government has no incentive to find the correct wage.

No only does government have no incentive to choose the correct wage, they have a huge incentive to overshoot that wage to appeal to voters.There is also no reason to assume that the best wage is the same for all jobs. Jobs that are less labor intensive and less risky would tend to have lower wages. Jobs that are more physically intense may need a higher wage to keep employees from leaving from exhaustion and burn out. But a one size fits all approach does not meet the needs of either types of work.

If some employers should have a higher wage, we should educate them. Using coercion does not inform them that they might be better off, it only violates their rights.

Sunday, April 5, 2015

Anti-discrimination laws

I am going to saw something radical and extremely controversial. People can and should discriminate against anyone whenever they do not feel comfortable associating with them, whether based on race, gender, sexual orientation, hair color, smile, facial tick or because the other person is just plain acting crazy.

In the rush to persecute those who discriminate, we forget that they have reasons for discrimination. They may not be well thought out or good reasons. But it is these reasons we should be attacking, not the people.

The primary reason we should allow people to discriminate is that people own themselves or, if you prefer, they own their bodies. Forcing one person to serve another for any reason is wrong. In any other case, we would call this slavery.

When searching for a suitable romantic partner, we discriminate at the highest level. Any quality we do not prefer, gender, race, hair color, sexual orientation, etc. is considered acceptable grounds for discrimination.

Some people may claim that dating is different. In fact, people who support anti-discrimination laws seek only to target businesses. But business is only one institution by which humans exchange value for value. All human interactions involve the exchange of value for value. Why should businesses be the exception?

It is not the where people discriminate that should be our focus. We should deal with the why and not focus on the where. Targeting business with anti-discrimination laws does not end discrimination and does not fix the reason for discrimination. It simply punishes people for having beliefs we disagree with.

Thursday, June 5, 2014

Regulations do not work

When I say regulations do not work, I do not mean that they do not succeed in controlling or regulating the economy. What I mean is that regulations do not work in the way that naive supporters of state regulations believe that they do. I mean that regulations do not overcome market failures (as that term is commonly used) to produce more efficient outcomes. Regulations do not succeed in protecting either workers or customers except incidentally and not better than could be done under the free market.

The argument is rather simple. The people most motivated to become regulator are those who personally benefit from regulating. There is also an idea we learn from game theory, reciprocity. People who are in the industry would be more qualified to regulate it on the basis of their knowledge. But since they come from that industry, they are going to be more willing to reciprocate to those who helped them get where they are. The flip side is also that regulators will need to find a job after they leave the government sector. Building a network by appeasing firms in an industry is the best way for a regulator to do that.

Even if a regulator has the best of intentions, she can only act on the information she has. But she only has information about the past and only incomplete information since much of it is personal. She can never have full information about the present.

In order to regulate an industry, a regulator is going to need to have regular contact with members of that industry. Stockholm syndrome and its converse Lima syndrome illustrate that people in an antagonistic relationship can over time develop sympathy for one another. Since regulators are often creating win-lose situations, since they have sympathy for the industry they regulate and the firms they work with, will create situations that benefit their friends in the industry.

This is why absurd regulations exist and why they will always exist. And regulations will never work.

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Maximizing and Satisficing in Online Dating

One of the supposed benefits of online dating is that it gains you access to a wider selection of possible mates. In the times of our parents and grandparents, people would often meet potential love interests through their friends or social group. This meant that you were limited to meeting people who knew people that you knew. This has the advantage that both people are vetted by their common friends.

With limited choice comes sacrifice. Being limited in potential partners, you are forced to accept less than perfect mates. But with limited choice, people are often more happy with the choice they make. This is where the issue of maximizing versus satisficing comes to play.

Imagine making an economic decision, purchasing a new sweater for example. There are several factors that will be used to make your choice in which sweater to purchase. You must weigh the cost against the quality, color, style, et cetera.If you have two choices, the decision is easy. But when there are many different styles, colors, qualities, costs, the decision becomes harder. A person who is a maximizer will want to maximize her well being in the consumption of the sweater and will thus want to look at all possible sweaters from all possible stores and weigh them.

A satisficer on the other hand recognizes that there is a cost to trying to weigh all possible options. Going from store to store, trying on every sweater, comparing prices and qualities of material has a cost in time and effort. The satisficer decides on the key attributes she is looking for and once she has found them, makes her purchase. She will only go to one or two stores knowing what she wants and what she is willing to pay. While she may not get the sweater that is most perfect, her over all well being may be higher simply from not paying the higher price in the search.

In a certain sense we are all maximizers and satisficers. On decisions we hold to be important, we will take more time and care weighing the costs and benefits of our choice. But what can be more important than who we will choose to be our life partner. And where as in the choice of sweaters there are dozens of different options maybe hundreds, but just peruse an online dating site and you will see there are thousands of people.

In any one meeting of two people, even if based on some magical formula from the dating website, while there may be a high degree of compatibility, each has an incentive to continue looking if there other is not close to perfect. After all, there are plenty of fish in the sea, as the saying goes. So even if there is a high degree of compatibility, the odds of both viewing the other as close enough to their ideal mate is low. And thus, while we can hope that we will find love through an online site, we must persevere in a way our parents and grandparents did not have to. And because of the higher cost in the search, we will ultimately be less satisfied with our result.

Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Diminishing Returns in Healthcare

Many people are ignorant of economics. This sad fact leads to misguided beliefs with regards to how states should allocate resources. The problem has never been clearer than in healthcare.

Diminishing returns has to do with how the average cost of a good or service increases as the amount produced of the good or service increases. At lower levels of output, we experience increasing returns, meaning the average cost decreases. As output increases, we reach a point where the average cost starts to increase. This point is determined by our level of technology.

As an example, historically grocery stores were small. They provided the necessary goods people needed within a small community. As technology improved, both in the ability of consumers to travel further and in the ability of grocery stores to get and hold larger inventories, the average cost of larger grocery stores fell. This has lead to the rise of large stores like WalMart who is able to provide more goods than so-called mom and pop stores at lower prices.

How does this apply to healthcare? There is a natural progression from small hospitals who take care of the need of a small community to larger hospitals that have more specialized nurses and doctors. By serving more people, they take advantage of increasing returns and can care for more specialized needs.

But what happens if the state comes in and tries to increase the number of people they serve? Resources that should be directed to assisting in more specialized treatments have to be directed to deal with more generalized treatments. This is why in countries with socialized medicine, getting in to see a general practitioner is faster than in the US but the wait to see a specialist is much longer.

Since we are talking about government services, it is hard to see how the cost of medical care is higher. The cost of devoting more resources to general practice is the forgone ability to serve those with more specialized needs. Since prices are set by government for these resources, we cannot accurately measure the true costs this imposes on society in dollar terms.

When resources are allocated by market forces, meaning according to the needs of the people, the way firms increase profits is by investing resources in improving technologies. Under government directed healthcare, resources are misdirected and investment is misallocated due both to the inefficiency of government due to lack of prices and the effect of diminishing returns.